For the full story, check out Carmen's journal, and follow her travels on Instagram: @carmenhuter.

And to plan your own weekend escape, we have some ideas that will be Good for your Soul.

Every year around my birthday, Fin and I like to go somewhere special. And every year for the last three years we have found ourselves exploring the same place.

The Coromandel that is. The Coromandel Peninsula is a narrow coastal strip full of beachy and rainforesty goodness no more than two hours from Auckland or Tauranga. Unsurprisingly, most Kiwis love to flock to the golden sands during the summer months. What many don't know is that a winter escape to Coro offers maximal paradise with minimal crowds. And that's what I cherish most about this wee peninsula. The fresh air in our lungs, the warm winter sun, the stillness of nature and the many outdoor adventures waiting to be experienced all culminate in the essence of a successful winter escape


On Friday afternoon, we started our journey at Europcar at Auckland Airport. They are home to the largest fleet of electric rental cars in New Zealand and in true eco-friendly style, we opted for an E-Golf. Every night, we'd plug it in at our accommodation, and if needed during the day, we had a quick top up charge at one of the towns (see the full list of charging stations here).

After a quick stop in Thames (Cafe Sola is my favourite), we went straight to our home for the night; Driving Creek Villas in Coromandel Town. We arrived to a beautiful bottle of vino, a roaring fire, and even a heated onsen pool (Japanese style hot tub). Now, that's what I call a perfect start to a winter getaway! To be honest though, what I treasured most was the silence at night. Living in the middle of Aotearoa's capital has me craving this stunning peace one can only find in NZ bush. Whenever I'm in town, I find myself at the Pepper Tree Restaurant and Bars for dinner; they are really accommodating for a plant-based diet which is a massive win for small-town New Zealand! 

First things first, we broke the fast at a local eatery called Wharf Rd. And wow, it did not disappoint. An entirely vegetarian menu consisting of mostly homegrown and organic goodness kept our bellies extremely happy and well fed for the adventures ahead. With our packed lunches proudly tucked away, we then skipped (yes, that food was that good we indeed felt like skipping) across the road to Leanne and Gavin from Bush e Bikes. (now Hike & Bike Coromandel ed.). Mountain bikes in tow, we set off north to Stony Bay, one end/start of the Coromandel Coastal Walkway. This beautiful beach deserves an extra night, so if you have more days to spare, I recommend soaking it all in and pitching camp before walking or biking the Coromandel Coastal Walkway the following day. Walking return, plan for max seven hours. To experience more (and hassle less), organise a drop-off at Stony Bay and pick-up at Fletcher Bay by a local tour operator from Coromandel Town. This way, you'll get to enjoy a sunset over the Hauraki Gulf on your way back. Given the time we spent snacking, gazing and taking photos at the various lookouts, I'm glad we chose to speed it up a little and bike. Be warned though; rainy days do make for a few muddy encounters.



Following our biking adventures, we crossed the peninsula over to Whitianga (45 minutes from Coromandel Town) and went straight to dinner at Blue Ginger (Asian fusion with a separate vegan menu). Once again, our taste buds were taken by complete surprise; 11/10.

Not long after, we dozed off next to the fire at our beautiful home for the evening, the Sovereign Pier on the Waterways.

How is it Sunday already? Reluctantly, we left our cosy bed and ran down to the beach for sunrise. Despite a somewhat horrendous weather forecast, Mother Nature delivered. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Nina's and shortly after caught up with Mat from Boom Sailing. Did you know winter is the best time for sailing in the Mercury Bay? While we would have loved to experience foiling in the original Team New Zealand America's Cup prototype cat, the weather forecast and my camera gear both made us opt for the more comfortable catamaran instead. Mat took fantastic care of us. I counted endless rainbows, we caught some excellent winds and, two weeks later, we want to go back and hop on that prototype cat already. 

A post-sail soak in the natural thermal waters of The Lost Spring was precisely what we needed to let the previous 24 hours of adventures sink in, literally. Lucky us, their lunch menu had the tastiest vegan options (quinoa chilli hot pot, anyone?), so naturally, we had to stay for a quick bite.


From previous Coro' getaways, I fondly remember the treats Colenso Cafe in Wenuakite (south of Whitianga). It does close at 3 pm though, so we didn't make it this time around. 

We did, however, stop for a quick beach walk in Hahei (this is where you will find Cathedral Cove). I can't get enough of those empty winter beaches. Can you see why?

A quick recharge in Tairua and two hours later, we found ourselves back where we started, Auckland Airport. 

Never long enough, but always an absolute delight! Thank you for being so good for our souls, Coromandel! x

Carmen visited The Coromandel courtesy of: Driving Creek Villas, Coromandel Discovery, Sovereign Pier on the Waterways, Boom Sailing, The Lost Spring, Europcar.


 For the full story, check out Carmen's journal, and  follow her travel's on Instagram: @carmenhuter.